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March 10, 1999
CORAL SPRINGS, FLORIDA
JAMES CRAMER: We have Mark O'Meara. Heard you had a ride down from Augusta?
MARK O'MEARA: Yes, actually Monday I was in Marco Island doing the charity thing for Ken Venturi, his late wife, Bo, a lot of the guys all came over and donated their day. It was really a nice day. They raised quite a bit of money for the abused children home over there. And then I was back home Monday night, then yesterday in the morning I flew up to Augusta, took my father, we played the National yesterday, it was kind of cold and wet, but it was a lot of fun. Then last night I did a lot of talking for Club Car. Then I was back home late last night. Now I'm here.
Q. What was the number yesterday?
MARK O'MEARA: I shot even par yesterday. Three over in the front, three under in the back, I had my rain suit on, it was 40 degrees, it was pretty cold.
Q. First time since last year?
MARK O'MEARA: It was the first time. I actually got on the 18th green and -- the pin was not exactly where it was, but it was within about five feet, but there was an old cup almost exactly in the same area as where it was on Sunday last year, so Peter Malick, who is my manager and my dad, I was showing them the putt that I had, and so I put my ball down, I said, okay, guys, this is the putt I had, blah, blah, blah, and I hit it and it broke -- a little more on the cup, and I made it again right over the old cup, I said that's enough. Then they tried it and they left it about a foot and a half short, one was way right, but it brought back a lot of neat memories. It was my first time to ever really play at Augusta National when it wasn't the tournament week, where there wasn't thousands of people out there on the golf course and the course is in nice shape. I'll be honest with you, I have a press conference next week and I'd rather not really talk about the changes until next week. I mean it's not that big a deal.
Q. Is that a request by anybody?
MARK O'MEARA: That is kind of a request, there's no -- the course, like I said, sure there's differences, but it is not that big a deal.
Q. What was it like walking the fairways with nobody around?
MARK O'MEARA: It was the best. It was absolutely the best. In fact, I feel bad that I have never taken that opportunity to go up and play at Augusta National when it wasn't the tournament week, because the week of the tournament there's a lot of people, there's a lot of excitement going on. It's not that easy just to relax. To really understand a golf course it's nice to be able to play it in the environment even though it was cold and it wasn't the best day to play golf up there, it was really a treat. It was really nice. It was a dream come true for my father. He's never played at Augusta National and to bring my dad, who is 70 up there, he walked all 18. I think he actually shot 40 on the backside, he was playing from the -- those tees way, way up there. Plus he wanted too many strokes, but...
Q. Mark, a lot's been made the last couple of weeks about the field at Doral as opposed to the field at Honda, the reasons why it happened. With these three new events coming in the majors, do you think it is going to take a couple of years for a pattern or for players to figure out this is how they're going to schedule, and do you think we may see some changes in the events because of that?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, my feeling is I have been out here for -- this is my 19th year, and there's no question that there are some fields that are going to be better than other fields, but an overall assessment to the PGA TOUR is the majority of the fields are very, very strong. This isn't coming out this year about strength of fields. The media's been talking about that for four years. Does the World Tour -- World events such as the Match Play, you know, the Stroke Play, you know, eventually the Team Championship, are those going to have an impact? You know, it's hard to say. Only time will tell. But I'm going to probably play as many tournaments, if not more this year as I did last year on the U.S. Tour. So I'm definitely not cutting my schedule back, but I think the changes at Doral were obviously dramatic. The golf course is definitely tougher, maybe some of the players, you know, didn't care for the changes that much, you know. From my standpoint, I usually play a big west coast swing, that's why I sometimes skipped Doral, looks like next year I'll probably play Doral. I'll try to mix and match it up. I think you're always going to have one year, may be a little stronger field than the next year, that's just going to come with time.
Q. Mark, can you talk about this, the changes in your life since winning two majors, what you've liked about your life post two majors and what maybe you haven't liked about it; the good and the bad?
MARK O'MEARA: I think the good is that needless to say that the exposure factor that winning two major championships brings along has been dramatic. The only negative factor might be learning to control my time a little bit better. I have been very, very busy ever since I have -- I have always been busy on THE TOUR, but now it's even more busy, trying to manage my time is going to be a challenge. I like to do a lot of things. It's hard for me to say no, so in that standpoint, that's the only maybe negative aspect of it, but it's nice to be wanted as opposed to not being wanted. But I also realize I need to play well, too, so there's that catch 22. But I am 42 years old, I'm not 27, you know, for me to go ahead and capitalize and take advantage of some of the things that happened last year, there's no reason why I shouldn't. I have always played a lot internationally. I played a lot internationally this year, and I don't play well, you know, you can blame it on a lot of different things. I could not play well and not have won the Masters and British Open and still not had a good year in '99. You try not to look at the negative aspect of it and just take the positive stand. It's been a lot of fun. I like people and I'm thrilled when I see highlights of what happened on the 18th green, like last night at the Club Car talk they had a little three-minute segment, they showed what happened on 18 at Augusta. They showed what happened at Birkdale, they showed what happened at the World Match Play, they showed what happened at the Skins Game. A lot of times we don't take time, we come in here after we win tournament and we don't take the time to say what really happened, what did I just do, you know, because then you are on to the next tournament or next event. When you sit down and it's sunk in over a period of time, you sit back and realize how special, it kind of sends some goose bumps up. You know, no matter what happens in the future, all those unbelievably great emotions that happened at Augusta last year or the British Open, you know, those will always be kind of etched in stone. So maybe that's something that I'll always be able to remember, even when things aren't so good, I'll say, at least I made that putt when I needed to on 18.
Q. How have things been different than if you won those majors at the age of 27, if that had come much earlier?
MARK O'MEARA: That would have probably been a little different situation then. Then I would have had to make sure I was really conscious of scheduling, you know, my time a little better, I believe. I think that's why a lot of the young players are doing that, realizing that they can't just look for the short-term, they gotta look for the long-term; i.e., Tiger Woods or David Duval, young players that are in their mid-twenties. They got 13, 15, 18 great years ahead of them, so there's no reason to try to over do it right away, just pace themselves.
Q. Mark, did Tiger ask you for any advice in his caddy situation?
MARK O'MEARA: He did not. He did not.
Q. What do you think of Steve Williams?
MARK O'MEARA: I think Steve Williams is a very good caddy. He's caddied for a lot of fine players. I remember he was on Greg Norman's bag when I played with Greg at Augusta. He's a very efficient caddy. He knows a lot about the game. He takes good care of himself. I didn't know what was going on necessarily with Fluff and Tiger either. Tiger and I are pretty good friends, so Fluff is a very good caddy, he did a lot of great things for Tiger Woods. I think he knows and appreciates that. He is 23, Fluff's a little older, maybe he just felt like it was time to make a change, but I really haven't sat down and talked to Tiger about it.
Q. Is there a majority of players one way or the other now that have guys who are knowledgeable about golf or guys that are comfortable with people maybe served a little bit as counselors out there and keep them --
MARK O'MEARA: For sure, for sure. I think as a player you are looking for a caddy who you've had success with. And then two, you look for a caddy that's reliable and on time, you know, doesn't show up late. With the amount of money that the players are playing for, with the purses the way they are and the percentages that are being paid, I mean, you know, a great caddy job may be $30,000 to $50,000, $70,000. Now some of these caddies are making pretty big numbers, so the caddy's job has changed just as well as the player's job has changed. And they're rewarding a lot of these great benefits with what's coming along in the game of golf. You better be on your tippy toes, because if you're not, like in any job, I mean you could lose that position.
Q. Do you think too much is made of this, obviously --
MARK O'MEARA: Absolutely, I think there was way too much being made of this.
Q. Because it's Tiger?
MARK O'MEARA: Probably because it's Tiger and Fluff. Obviously he has got an image and Tiger had the image, both of those were marked a little bit. Everybody has feelings. Tiger and Fluff may have stayed together for a long period of time. There's always constant changes out here, whether it is golfers, caddies, all the way down the line. I feel bad for Fluff. I kind of feel bad for Tiger, but Tiger is his own man, his own boss, and he has to do what he thinks is right.
Q. I even had a fan ask me one time -- they think they're interested in what a caddy does or about the caddy as a person, same way they're interested in a good football team's offensive coordinator, and who is that guy behind the head man -- do you think that golf's interest has extended to that, people are interested in the guy that carries the bag?
MARK O'MEARA: Probably more so because there is a chemistry out there, you know, a player has to have total confidence in his caddy. He's kind of his right-hand guy out there. But of course, on the other hand, the player has his name on the bag and the caddy's name is on the bag. The caddy doesn't hit any shots, but I do think the fact that TV has gotten closer, you know, microphones are out there, they can hear the player and the caddy talking about a yardage or certain club or what kind of play they may pick out and play, so, sure, it's like maybe an assistant coach over there on the sideline trying to, you know, or an offensive coordinator trying to give the player some advice, sound advice. And if you feel confident in that person, then you are going to have a good bond.
Q. How often do you go with what your caddy tells you and then it turns out because you don't -- you were right, you know --
MARK O'MEARA: There were times when we will talk about a yardage, Jerry will pull the right club and I will say, thanks, that was the right way to play it. There may be other times where I'm between clubs, very rarely will he talk me out of it. Sometimes I may take his word too much for granted. And I think when a player gets to the point where he's so dependent on his caddy, that can be the negative. That can be not so good because you have to realize that you still have to play the course. I don't want to blame my caddy. If I hit a bad shot, it's me. I don't ever blame him. But on the other hand, our guys out here, you know, will blame their caddy, you know, say that was the wrong club, how can you tell me that club. I hit the shot. He didn't hit the shot. Just as I get the reward a lot more than he does, it's become quite interesting. There's been changes constantly going on out there, guys move around from different players after two or three or four years, sometimes if you become too close a friend with your caddy, that can be a problem. That's like being too close a friend with a boss employee-type relationship, same thing.
Q. Were you able to go for any of the par 5s?
MARK O'MEARA: At Augusta yesterday?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, 2, I couldn't. It's like pretty long to the bunker out there now, but I knocked it on 13 in two and I knocked it on 15, but I hit 3-wood both of them.
Q. Mark, how are you approaching this year, will there be more focus on majors for you now?
MARK O'MEARA: My focus this year is to keep trying to improve, and I want to play well every week, or at least do well. I was setting my sights this year hopefully on the U.S. Open and the PGA. I mean, you know, I know that it may sound impossible, but it might have been impossible to win two majors in one year for Mark O'Meara in 1998. So why not set my sights at Pinehurst and kind of at Medinah this year for the PGA Championship. It's going to be fun going back to the Masters this year as defending champion. It is going to be fun, I was up in the locker room -- champion's locker room yesterday just to check it out because I hadn't been back up there since I was an amateur in 1980, and I got to go up and see where my locker is with my name on it. I saw a lot yesterday that I'm sharing a locker with Gene Sarazen, that's cool. To see our both names on there, mine underneath his in the champion's locker room.
Q. Did someone take you up there in '80?
MARK O'MEARA: I kind of snuck in there in '80 as an amateur, I was staying in the clubhouse. It is not like it is off limits, but it is pretty well spoken.
Q. You had to clean junk out of the locker actually?
MARK O'MEARA: There wasn't a whole lot in there. I don't have to worry about Gene stealing any of my golf balls.
Q. Any forewords?
MARK O'MEARA: No, forewords. Actually the locker was dead empty, so...
Q. I'm curious to know if prior to going into '98 and going into this season, are your goals a little different, I mean did you kind of elevate those goals after last year? Before going into '98, did you think about I could win this major or that major?
MARK O'MEARA: No. My goals is always to play well, finish high in the money list, win the tournaments, be a consistent player. That's always been my goal. Last year I overachieved a lot of things that maybe I might not have believed in the beginning of the year, but it gives everybody a little hope, including myself, going into '99. But this year, you know, I didn't have much of an off-season. I didn't have much of a break. After I got beat at the World Match Play, by Michael Bradley, I went straight to Deer Valley where I have a place and I snow skied for about, let's see, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday -- about ten days I skied with my family pretty much everyday I snow skied. Phil Mickelson was up there one day, we skied a little bit, Lee Janzen was up there, Brad Faxon skied with me a little bit, you know, we had a nice time. It is nice to be away from golf. My goals this year will be just to play every game well every time I tee up, maybe not just try to keep improving.
Q. What's your experiences on -- any experiences on Pinehurst and then how have you played Medinah?
MARK O'MEARA: I like Pinehurst very much, that is where I met Hank Haney in '82. He was a teaching instructor there. I went to Pinehurst a lot when I was trying to change my swing in '83, '84 and part of '85, so I think Pinehurst is an incredible golf course and a great venue to hold the U.S. Open on. Medinah, you know, is a tough course. I remember Hale Irwin and Mike Donald having their playoffs. They are golf courses where you have to drive the ball well, that's what I'm trying to work on now, driving the ball a little better. If I can do that, then hopefully I'll play well there.
Q. Mark, are you thinking a little more about history now than you used to, if you win the PGA and USA, you know, getting on the floor?
MARK O'MEARA: Yes, I would say that after what happened there at Augusta, and then at the Open Championship, you know, I have -- I always knew that those events were very important and very special. I mean, I never denied that, but I wouldn't have -- if I hadn't have won a major championships, I wouldn't have called myself a complete failure in the game of golf because I won a lot of tournaments. I had achieved much more than I would have ever dreamed when I first started in the fall of 1980, so you have to judge yourself on that. I think that the media and everybody else has -- you know, judges. They judge players -- great players on their performance in major championships. Now to have won two of them, kind of in the fashion and the age that I did it, yeah, there's no question that I appreciate more now exactly what those tournaments mean.
Q. Do players who have won majors judge other players by that same standard?
MARK O'MEARA: I try not to. I mean I still -- I still know that when I'm out there playing, you know, I'm playing against 156 very fine players every week and I don't think to myself, yeah, I got an advantage because I won two majors and this player didn't. Because I was a pretty darn good player and I didn't win a major, so I don't lose respect for any player who has played for any period of time and hasn't won a major. I think that winning a major definitely just holds that little extra credibility, probably to the rest of the world than the golfing public more, it may say something to the fellow peers when the heat was on this guy can get the job done.
Q. Isleworth, all these players that live there, can you talk a little about what it's like to have -- the championship, I don't know if you guys do that, just what it's like to have so many great players and star celebrities at that one club?
MARK O'MEARA: It is a nice facility. I love living there. We've got a lot of neat people that live there and it is nice because everybody who does live there, whether it is a dentist or a lawyer or whoever, you know, they give everybody their own space. It's not that big a deal. Tiger hits balls in the range, people don't come running over asking for his autograph. There is kind of an unseen policy there, you just give people their space. I think Tiger enjoys the membership there, the membership enjoys Tiger. Payne Stewart, you know, Lee Janzen, myself, Scott Hoch, Craig Perry, Stuart Appleby, you go down that list there are a lot of guys. I was actually the first guy to join the club and I was the first pro to buy a piece of property and live in there. A lot of the other guys didn't want to do that, but they saw the benefits of it and now a lot of the players enjoy practicing there and it's just -- it is a nice place for me to have the opportunity to raise my kids.
Q. Do you ever get excited when you see actors or other --
MARK O'MEARA: Sure, oh, yeah. I mean John Smoltz and Greg Maddux have been over there playing golf every day. They love playing with, you know, myself or with Tiger or with Payne, and we like watching them play, you know, with the Braves. They have spring training right there at Disney. There's no denying the fact that we don't have nice relationships, my relationship with Ken Griffey, Jr. and some of the other athletes that live there. I'm out there having lunch with Payne, Penny Hardaway is teeing off on No. 10, we go say high to Penny, Coach Daly was sitting there as we came out, was getting all mad, saying, look you brought the coach out, he is following you, I can't -- I'm all nervous, I'm scared to hit in front of you guys, he proceeded to slice 1-over in the right trees, but I said don't worry about it, Penny, I don't think we can shoot a basketball like you can, so it's all relative.
Q. Mark, I know that AT&T and Hope you can choose your own partners --
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I mean, yeah, I guess, not really. I think -- I mean you can request. They may not come through.
Q. Okay. In functions like today, do you enjoy that just as much as the other ones?
MARK O'MEARA: I do.
Q. Do you do anything to make people at ease when they're clearly nervous?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I try -- yes, I do. I realize the importance of a Pro-Am. I realize what amateur golfers like all of you guys and ladies and everybody that plays the game, the importance of the game. Listen, I'm nervous when I tee off. There's not many times where I stand at a tee and I'm not a little nervous. You always want to hit a good shot. There is no person that stands over a golf ball and wants to hit a bad shot. I try to explain to my amateurs, I know you are a little nervous, I try to spend time with them, talking to them, getting to know them, them getting to know me, and at the end of the day they've had a good time. I'm not going to walk down one side of the fairway and have them walk down the other side.
Q. Have you been hit by a shot?
MARK O'MEARA: Yes, by one of my amateurs.
MARK O'MEARA: Buick up in Warwick Hills. You know, you got four guys, everybody is all over the place, I'm kind of all over the place, you know, I'm talking with one of my amateurs and one kind of semi-heeled one, I think one hopped and caught me in the wrist, but it wasn't too bad.
JAMES CRAMER: Speaking of Pro-Ams, Mark, has to go get ready for his.
End of FastScripts....